The novel coronavirus pandemic is still accelerating and its effects will be felt for decades, the World Health Organization’s director-general told an online conference on Monday.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual health forum organised by Dubai authorities that the greatest threat facing the world is not the virus itself, but “the lack of global solidarity and global leadership”.
“We cannot defeat this pandemic with a divided world,” he said.
“The politicisation of the pandemic has exacerbated it. None of us is safe until all of us are safe.”
The WHO warned last week of a new and dangerous phase of the coronavirus pandemic, with people tiring of lockdowns despite the disease’s rapid spread.
The COVID-19 illness, which has now killed more than 465,000 people and infected almost nine million worldwide, is surging in the Americas and parts of Asia, even as Europe starts to ease restrictive measures.
Lockdowns imposed to halt the spread of the virus have caused crippling economic damage, but the WHO says the pandemic still poses a major threat.
“The pandemic is still accelerating,” Tedros told the virtual conference.
“We know that the pandemic is much more than a health crisis, it is an economic crisis, a social crisis, and in many countries a political crisis,” he said.
“Its effects will be felt for decades to come.”
A vaccine remains months off at best despite several trials, while scientists are still discovering more about the virus, its symptoms and the extent to which it may have spread before being identified.
The World Health Organisation on Wednesday pleaded for global unity in fighting the coronavirus, following US President Donald Trump’s stinging attack on its handling of the pandemic.
As the WHO prepares to mark 100 days on Thursday since it was first notified of the outbreak in China, director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hit back at accusations that it had been too close to Beijing.
The UN’s health agency has faced criticism in the past both for overreacting and for moving too slowly in fighting epidemics, but it has rarely faced as much scrutiny as with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trump piled in on Tuesday, accusing the WHO of having “called it wrong” and months too late while taking US money but favouring China.
The new coronavirus, which first appeared in China in December, has gone on to kill more than 80,000 people, while more than 1.4 million people have tested positive.
“The WHO really blew it. For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China-centric. We will be giving that a good look,” Trump said on Twitter.
“Fortunately I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?”
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Tedros urged the United States to join with China in combating the disease rather than indulging in a blame game, as he issued a stern defence of the WHO’s management of the pandemic.
“The United States and China should come together and fight this dangerous enemy,” Tedros told a virtual press briefing in Geneva.
“The focus of all political parties should be to save their people. Please don’t politicise this virus.
“If you don’t want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicising it,” the WHO chief argued, before adding later: “It’s like playing with fire.”
Citing the death toll and number of infections, Tedros implored: “For God’s sake… is this not enough?”
The WHO was deemed too alarmist when it faced the H1N1 epidemic in 2009 but five years later it was accused of dragging its feet in declaring an emergency over the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which killed more than 11,000 people.
Now the agency has been accused of delaying sounding the alarm over COVID-19 for fear of offending Beijing, for waiting too long to declare the outbreak a global pandemic and for failing to coordinate a coherent international response.
Tedros has been giving thrice-weekly virtual press conferences in a bid to be open about how the organisation is dealing with the pandemic.
On Wednesday, in a highly unusual turn, Ethiopia’s former health and foreign minister spoke out for the first time about the personal attacks aimed at him, including racial slurs and a death threat, during the crisis.
“I don’t give a damn,” Tedros said.
“I am a very proud black person or negro. I don’t care about being called even negro; I am.
“When the whole black community was insulted, when Africa was insulted, then I don’t tolerate,” he said, referring to suggestions last week from two scientists about the continent’s suitability as a vaccine testing ground.
Late Wednesday he retweeted the personal support he has received from the African Union and the presidents of South Africa, Nigeria and Rwanda.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres lent his support too, saying it was not the time to criticise the early response to the outbreak.
“Now is the time for unity, for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences,” he said in a statement.
Tedros can call also on some top-level celebrity backing, such as US superstar Lady Gaga.
He has teamed up with the singer to launch a giant online coronavirus awareness concert on April 18 entitled “One World: Together at Home”, featuring music icons like Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder.
Tedros said there would be worse to come from COVID-19 if the world did not unite to stand up to its spread.
“Let’s fight like hell to suppress and control this virus,” he said.
“Otherwise, with the way we are doing now, I think we will regret it.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed that 24 cases of coronavirus have been exported from Italy to 14 countries.
WHO also revealed that 97 cases have been exported from Iran to 11 countries.
In his opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 28 February 2020, WHO’s Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stated that in the past 24 hours, China reported 329 cases – the lowest in more than a month.
Mr Ghebreyesus who on Friday reeled out figures regarding the spread of the virus said that as of 6am Geneva time this morning, China reported a total of 78,959 cases of COVID-19 to WHO, including 2791 deaths.
“Outside China, there are now 4351 cases in 49 countries and 67 deaths.
“Since yesterday, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Netherlands, and Nigeria have all reported their first cases. All these cases have links to Italy,” Mr Ghebreyesus told newsmen on Friday.
The Director-General also said that the continued increase in the number of cases, and the number of affected countries over the last few days, are clearly of concern.
He, however, noted that WHO’s epidemiologists have been monitoring these developments continuously, and have now increased its assessment of the risk of spread and the risk of the impact of COVID-19 to very high at a global level.
“What we see at the moment are linked epidemics of COVID-19 in several countries, but most cases can still be traced to known contacts or clusters of cases. We do not see evidence as yet that the virus is spreading freely in communities.
“As long as that’s the case, we still have a chance of containing this virus, if robust action is taken to detect cases early, isolate and care for patients and trace contacts.
“As I said yesterday, there are different scenarios in different countries and different scenarios within the same country,” Mr Ghebreyesus said while briefing the media.
According to him, the key to containing this virus is to break the chains of transmission.
The coronavirus outbreak has stirred some panic across the world, with many confused as to what can be done to stop this virus from spreading, as well as save lives.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in the past 24 hours, China reported 329 cases – the lowest in more than a month.
As of 6 am Geneva time this morning, China has reported a total of 78,959 cases of COVID-19 to WHO, including 2791 deaths.
Outside China, there are now 4351 cases in 49 countries and 67 deaths.
While there are hopes that vaccines would soon be made available, there are 10 major things the WHO wants everyone to know about this virus and they are:
1. As we keep saying, clean your hands regularly with an alcohol-based hand rub, or wash them with soap and water.
Touching your face after touching contaminated surfaces or sick people is one of the ways the virus can be transmitted. By cleaning your hands, you can reduce your risk.
2. Clean surfaces regularly with disinfectant – for example, kitchen benches and work desks.
3. Educate yourself about COVID-19. Make sure your information comes from reliable sources – your local or national public health agency, the WHO website, or your local health professional. Everyone should know the symptoms – for most people, it starts with a fever and a dry cough, not a runny nose. Most people will have mild disease and get better without needing any special care.
4. Avoid traveling if you have a fever or cough and if you become sick while on a flight, inform the crew immediately. Once you get home, make contact with a health professional and tell them about where you have been.
5. If you cough or sneeze, do it into your sleeve or use a tissue. Dispose of the tissue immediately into a closed rubbish bin, and then clean your hands.
6. If you are over 60 years old, or if you have an underlying condition like cardiovascular disease, a respiratory condition or diabetes, you have a higher risk of developing severe disease. You may wish to take extra precautions to avoid crowded areas or places where you might interact with people who are sick.
7. For everyone, if you feel unwell, stay at home and call your doctor or local health professional. He or she will ask some questions about your symptoms, where you have been and who you have had contact with.
This will help to make sure you get the right advice, are directed to the right health facility, and will prevent you from infecting others.
8. If you are sick, stay at home and eat and sleep separately from your family, use different utensils and cutlery to eat.
9. If you develop shortness of breath, call your doctor and seek care immediately.
10. It’s normal and understandable to feel anxious, especially if you live in a country or community that has been affected. Find out what you can do in your community. Discuss how to stay safe with your workplace, school or place of worship.
WHO’s Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a statement on Friday noted that together, “we are powerful”.
Mr Adhanom further stressed that containment starts with every individual.
He further revealed that the greatest enemy right now is not the virus itself, but fear, rumours, and stigma. Adding that “our greatest assets are facts, reason, and solidarity”.
The World Health Organization says climate change is one of the defining issues of our time.
In a communique by its Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the health organization stressed that climate change is also one of the world’s most urgent health threats.
Mr Ghebreyesus who noted that in less than two weeks’ time, he will join the UN Secretary-General and other world leaders at the Climate Action Summit at the United Nations General Assembly, revealed that this landmark summit will showcase the concrete commitments governments are making to address climate change and to secure and improve the health and well-being of their citizens.
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“Two of those commitments have been developed by the World Health Organization and its partners. The first is a pledge to ensure that air meets WHO safety standards by 2030 at the latest, and to align climate change and air pollution policies. Many of the same practices that lead to climate change also result in deadly air pollution.
“The second is to provide financial resources to protect people from the detrimental health impacts of climate change. Today, less than 0.5% of international finance for climate change is allocated to health, and the most vulnerable countries, particularly small island developing states, receive only a fraction of that. Countries are being asked to allocate more to protect people against the ravages of the climate crisis.
“Twelve days remain for leaders to sign up to those commitments: I urge those who have not yet made their commitments to join those who have pledged action to protect people from the devastating heatwaves, floods and cyclones linked with climate change, and to reduce the risk of malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea, and heat stress,” Mr Ghebreyesus stated.
The Climate Action Summit takes place on the same day as the UN High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage.
The WHO DG stated that it is significant that these events will run in parallel.
He stressed that “Taking steps to address and mitigate the impacts of climate change, and to ensure that everyone can access the health services they need, when and where they need them, are two of the top priorities in global public health”.
According to the WHO boss, it is only when countries can provide health services to all, including those in greatest jeopardy from climate change, that “we will achieve our goals of promoting health, keeping the world safe, and protecting the vulnerable”.